India: Orissa Bishops’ letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik

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Shri Naveen Patnaik
Hon'ble Chief Minister

Government of Orissa
Bhubaneswar, Orissa.
Date: 10th November 2008

Respected Sir,

First of all we want to convey to you our sincere thanks and appreciation for giving us this appointment to meet you.

Further we want to place before you the following points for your kind consideration and necessary action on an emergency basis.

1. The Exodus of Christians from Kandhamal District: There is considerable reduction of refugees in Relief Camps (from 24,000 to 11,000). The claim that those who leave the relief camps are going back to their own villages and settling down in their homes is not true. Most of them have migrated to relief camps in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Jhanla, Berhampur and also settled down in rented houses and in the homes of relations, friends, acquaintances etc. It is estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 Christians of Kandhamal district are living outside the district.

A large number of Christians of Kandhamal district have gone to Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat etc. People in the relief camps of the costal belts, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Berhampur etc. want to return to their villages, but are afraid because of the reasons (a) They may be attacked on the way or in their own villages. (b) They are forced to become Hindus under pain of death or loss of properties. They are told to become Hindus or leave the village, the district or even India. (c) Many are unwilling to return because the criminals are still at large and moving about with swords, guns, weapons etc. as in Kothingia/Tiangia of Raikia block and Sarangodo block.

The Christians who have returned to their own villages and homes are forcibly converted to Hinduism; they are forced to accept Hindu Samskaras under oath and under pain of divine punishment. Their movements and meeting with people are restricted by the fanatics for instance in Padangi, Sankarakhol.

2. Acts of injustices against Christians:

a) Christians are chased away from their homes and villages.

b) Even though the State Govt. had promised to allot land to the landless (after the last attack) it has not yet been done. Many do not get money for the gutted down houses or damaged houses because the administration applies rules absolutely and strictly to the Christians in such a way that the landless will not get allotment of land or they even loose what they have.

c) A man was not allowed to be buried in the village as he did not become a Hindu in village Sarthaguda of Tikabali block.

d) Christians are not allowed to harvest the paddy from their own fields in many Gram Panchayats if they do not become Hindus.

3. Looting of houses, Churches & Religious Houses: As the people had fled out of threat and fear criminals are looting the homes, churches, religious houses, institutions and destroying/burning whatever is left over.

4. Non Acceptance of FIRs: FIRs are not accepted in Daringabadi and Sarangoda Police Stations.

5. Attack on Christians is not an Ethnic Conflict: Hindu Fundamentalist groups have been trying to name the communal violence as an Ethnic Conflict between the Tribals and the Pano Christians. A cursory look at facts reveals that this conflict is a calculated and preplanned master plan to wipe out Christianity from Kandhamal district, Orissa, in order to realize the hidden agenda of Sangh Parivar of establishing a Hindu Nation. Therefore to keep the hidden agenda a secret they have tried to manipulate the facts:

- That the victims of attack were Christians

-That not only Panos but Christian Tribals also were killed, their homes and properties burned, destroyed and looted (list attached).

6. Fast Tract Court: We are happy that the state Govt. has decided to establish FTC at Kandhamal for expeditious trial of cases relating to communal violence. Looking at the geographical area it is suggested that the said Fast Tract Court may be set up at G. Udayagiri as it is centrally located to all the villages that have been affected by violence. Further it is requested that the Judge of the FTC should be from any other religion other than from Christian or Hindu Religion.

7. Request the presence of Central Forces in Kandhamal District: The Hate campaign beginning from 23rd August 2008 has been targeted to polarize religious groups and will affect peace process during restoration stages till the Parliament & Assembly Elections in Orissa are over.

The Christian victims now in relief camps and those who have taken distress departure from Kandhamal are afraid of further attacks as the State Police are few and who even can not defend themselves and their outposts. Hence we request that the presence of Central Forces be extended till the Parliament and Assembly Elections in Orissa are over.

8. Churches be built/repaired by 1st week of December 2008: This will allow Christmas spiritual preparations to begin and spiritual traditions to be observed. This will also help confidence building among the congregations and bury the past quietly as they approach Christmas 2008.

Thanking You
Yours faithfully

Dr. Raphael Cheenath,
Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar

Dr. T. Thiruthalil,
Bishop of Balasore

Dr. Sarat Nayak,
Bishop of Berhampur

Rev. Dr. Richard Howell
General Secretary
Evangelical Fellowship of India
New Delhi, India

Evangelical Fellowship of India (established 1951) is a charter member of World Evangelical Alliance, an accredited NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations